High Court Litigation in England & Wales

As one of the Senior Courts of England & Wales, litigation in the High Court is often highly sophisticated. 

It’s therefore vital for parties facing High Court proceedings to have highly experienced litigators on their side, who have exceptional advocacy skills that exceed those of their opponent. 

Whether you wish to claim, defend or counter-claim, our we can assist with all manner of High Court litigation. Here we provide an over of High Court litigation. 

Types of High Court Cases

The High Court in England & Wales deals with high value and complex civil matters. 

Based at the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand in London, it also has district registries across England & Wales where proceedings may be issued.

The High Court has three divisions: Chancery, Queen’s Bench and Family. Which division a case will proceed through depends on the nature of the dispute. Sometimes, the jurisdictions of these divisions overlap and a case can be transferred to the division best placed to hear it.

High Court Chancery Division Litigation

A large part of the Chancery Division’s case load involves complex business disputes and allegations of civil fraud involving large amounts of money. All Tax Appeal Tribunals are also assigned to the Chancery Division. Amongst other things, we regularly assist clients with proceedings in this division relating to:

  • Commercial disputes
  • Property-related disputes
  • Wills and trusts
  • Insolvency
  • Tax matters
  • Intellectual property

High Court Family Division Litigation

The Family Division is in charge of all family matters, such as cases relating to children, divorce, civil partnerships, financial provision and grants of probate in non-contentious cases. It also hears appeals from lower courts on family proceeding.

Queen’s Bench Division Litigation

The Queen’s Bench Division will handle most other civil matters, some of which can also be heard in the Chancery Division. 

Our experience of Queen’s Bench Division litigation includes:

  • Contractual disputes;
  • Actions for non-payment of a debt;
  • Actions for possession of land or property; 
  • Personal injury; 
  • Professional negligence; 
  • Defamation (libel and slander).

High Court Litigation Procedure

There are strict time limits for starting a case in the High Court. Most of the time limits are contained in the Limitations Act 1980, which can be anywhere from one year to six years, depending on the type of case. It’s therefore vital to take swift action when thinking of commencing High Court proceedings.

Cases are started in the High Court by submitting claim forms and paying specific court fees. Once the fee has been paid, the claim form is stamped and a copy must be given to the person or corporation being sued.

What follows is the drafting and exchanging of relevant documents and information, including the service form, admission and defence form, and details of the case to be met (particulars of claim). The court needs to have a certificate showing that you have done all of this.

The Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) are used in the High Court. 

They govern all matters relating to the procedures used in the Court and in relation to all documents. 

This is especially important in the complex matters often handled by the High Court. One of the most important parts of the CPR is the “overriding objective of enabling the court to deal with cases justly and at proportionate cost”. 

Parties who fail to adhere to these rules, and directions made under them in respect of case management, are liable to find themselves severely reprimanded by the court, sometimes via an adverse costs order (i.e. pay the other parties legal fees as well as their own). 

It’s therefore important to ensure you are represented by highly competent and organised solicitors and litigators who have extensive experience of High Court procedure.

Cases are usually heard in public, either before a High Court Judge or panel of Judges. In very specific types of cases, such as defamation claims, a Judge and a jury may hear the case. In certain circumstances, it is possible to ask the Court to close the proceedings and prevent the public from accessing court documents.

Barristers represent parties in the High Court litigation matters. They are specialists who have the right to appear before the Court. The  extensive experience in drafting documents and are able to give expert opinions in particular areas of law that they have been practicing in over the years. We ensure that our clients are matched with specialist counsel who are experts in the law relevant to their case.

Until the end of the case, each party bears their own costs. At the end of the proceedings, the judge may order the unsuccessful party to pay some of the successful parties’ costs. This is not always the case and the order is at the Judge’s discretion based on the legislation, the precedents involved, as well as the specific facts and conduct of the parties during proceedings.

If a High Court decision is to be challenged, appeals are made to the Court of Appeal and perhaps the UK Supreme Court.

Cases raising issues under EU law may be referred to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) (while it remains part of the UK legal system).

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